Nearly 70,000 people in Idaho don’t have jobs. That’s according to estimates from the Idaho Department of Labor. That figure doesn’t take into account the thousands of people who are underemployed or who’ve given up the search.
Justy Thomas was 34 years old then, and like so many in her situation, was at a crossroads. When Thomas lost her job four years ago she decided to college.
Thomas: "I wanted to do a reset. I wanted to change my career"
She says going to college also seemed like a necessity.
Thomas says the jobs that were available back in 2007 required the same thing -- a degree.
Thomas: "the job requirements didn’t say ‘or experience’, they wouldn’t even look at or consider me unless I had a 4 year degree."
Thomas didn’t finish high school.
She dropped out after getting pregnant at age 17.
She received her GED and went straight into the workforce…
Thomas: "so, instead of going to college at that time, the biggest, most pressing issue for me was, grow up, do it now, and take care of this young baby. And i was doing it on my own."
Thomas worked her way up as a receptionist at a Boise-based food distributor to a home mortgage consultant with Wells Fargo. It took hard work, and solid recommendations from her managers. She doesn’t think that kind of thing happens much anymore. Still, she questions the value of the human resource and general business management degree she’ll have in December.
Thomas says many of her friends who have Masters’ degrees or PhDs are struggling to find a job…
Thomas: "I wonder if I had gone back to work these last 4 years, and just pulled up my bootstraps and started at that ground floor again, and worked my way up, would i be satisfied, would I be more satisfied? I certainly would be in less debt, certainly."
Thomas attended college at Boise state university for the first two years using her and her husband’s savings. She took out about 30-thousand dollars in student loans to pay for the last two years. Thomas searches for jobs in between finals and finishing her course work. She’s landed a couple of initial interviews and had a second interview with target to be an executive manager in training, but didn’t get the job.
Thomas: "every time I’m denied that job, it kind of chips away at my self-esteem, self-worth, whatever, ambition, whatever that is..."
Her goal is to have a job lined up by thanksgiving, but she’s not willing to take just anything, yet. Thomas doesn’t have a dream job in mind; instead, she says it’s more of an ideal…
Thomas: "I want what I do for the majority of my waking hours to matter. Not just matter on a financial level for us, for me, for my spouse for my family for the corporation. As a whole, i want it to matter to society."
Justy Thomas graduates from Boise state on December 16th – she plans to walk…. It will be her first graduation ceremony.